Today I saw some charming sidewalk chalk art and one of the bits was a heart with the “H & H” written inside. Ah, who doesn’t smile at such graphic declarations of love?! But it also seemed like a cosmic wink and so for today’s abecedarium entry let’s look at two H words.
is for Herbs and Helichrysum
I think most people tend to think of herbs as seasonings for food, but that’s really only a partial definition. The true botanical definition is “any seed-bearing plant that does not have a woody stem and dies down to the ground after flowering.” A less official, but more pragmatic definition is “any plant with leaves, seeds, or flowers used for flavoring, food, medicine, or perfume.”
That widens things up quite a bit doesn’t it?
While there are lots of organizations offering herbal educational and information, if you’re interested The Herb Society of America is one place you might want to scope out.
But moving on to the second H topic… Helichrysum belongs to the Asteraceae family, which includes asters, daisies, and sunflowers. There are over 600 species in the Helichrysum genus, but the one most commonly used for essential oils is Helichrysum italicum also known Helichrysum angustifolium.
The word Helichrysum is from the Greek “Helios” or “sun” and “Chrysos” or “Gold”, referring to the color of the flowers.
In my training both as an aromatherapist and a natural perfumer, keeping journals was a critical, and fun, part of the work. Here’s a peek at the page where I’ve included some pictures of Helichrysum.
My favorite part of the page is the white strip under the name at the top right. That’s a fragrance test strip. They’re used to dip into the oil and you sniff the strip rather than from the bottle. They’re particularly helpful when you’re evaluating blends because you want to be able to see how a fragrance develops over time. The first top note isn’t the whole story. Test strips are also a good way to simply train your nose as well, and I love keeping them on journal pages where I can see a photo and catch a hint of scent as well.
The essential oil has a strongly straw-like, fruity smell, with a honey and tea undertone.
Helichrysum essential oil can be a stimulant for body organs responsible for detoxifying; it’s also an effective antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and astringent used to treat skin issues and respiratory complaints.
I admit I’m much more interested in the psychological and spiritual effects of essential oils than the physical. Helichrysum can be grounding without being too heavy or dense; it’s warming; it encourages looking inward in self-discovery. It encourages one to speak and live one’s truth authentically; and I find the oil to have a gentle, almost feminine power.
Whenever I talk about essential oils I always feel obligated to remind people they are concentrated form and need to be approached with care and consideration. Here’s a helpful little guide to safety considerations.
While my interest is primarily focused on the essential oil aspect of Helichrysum, I certainly don’t underrate its ornamental value. You may know the flower as Everlasting, Immortelle, Strawflower or Curry Plant. Although it does appear in other colors, it’s most widely known in its yellow form. The flowers maintain their color long after being picked and are quite popular in dried arrangements.
So do you know Helichrysum? Are there other golden flowers you love? Do you use essential oils? What’s your favorite herb? Do tell – you know I love to hear.